Sales Enablement vs Sales Operations: What’s the Difference?

5 min read

Ask two people what the difference between sales operations and sales enablement is and you’ll get two different answers. But something we can all agree on is that the sales enablement vs sales operations debate is one of the most widely discussed topics in the sales ops community.

We set out to ask sales ops leaders how they work with sales enablement and their take on the differences between the two roles.

Brandon Bussey - sales enablement vs sales operations

Brandon Bussey, Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

At Lucid we were restarting our enablement team when I joined. We brought in someone to run and build that function out and we moved the function into sales ops. It’s been beneficial in making sure both teams are aligned and that we’re partnering on our initiatives. It also helps enablement to focus on where they’re driving metrics and what metrics they should be focusing on.

We have our regular team meetings, which results in good osmosis. But I think the water cooler effect is where the best interactions happen between the team. That’s what our current Head of Enablement is great at. She’ll hear someone talking in the background and she’ll ask to listen in, give her feedback and share ideas. It drives a more cohesive team and a more go-to-market approach to the sales floor. One area we are now pushing is to also have our enablement team out with the sales floor more for that same reason.

Read our interview with Brandon.

Gilles de Clercq - sales enablement vs sales operations

Gilles de Clercq, Business Operations Analyst, Showpad

Here at Showpad we have three teams. There is the operations team, focused on the technical part, the processes and tools. Next to us we have the enablement team who are responsible for enabling our teams, coaching, getting up to speed on the latest progressions, getting the right training in place. They work closely with the product marketing team, who are responsible for putting the newest release and product trends into actionable one pagers, training videos etc. So, we have operations working with enablement and enablement working with product marketing.

Primarily we work together with sales enablement because everything they preach needs to be in place in terms of processes. For example, if we launch a new product, we need to make sure that it’s all available in our CRM, that sales have the right accesses and the right guidance with the different tools. If we price a certain feature at price X, we need to make sure that the given pricing guidelines are all implemented in the system in the correct way.

Read our interview with Gilles.

Marissa White - sales enablement vs sales operations

Marissa White, Founder, Sales Ops Help

I think there’s something overarching that covers both. Maybe it could be classed as sales excellence. Sales enablement for me is obviously training and development, but I think it’s also more than that. I think it’s ongoing coaching. I don’t think sales ops does that coaching element, that’s not part of the role.

Sales ops help surface the areas of the data points that sales enablement focuses on.

I have a colleague who has worked in sales enablement for about 25 years and we have a good rapport. We did a couple of road trips in the US and Australia where we’d sit down with first line managers. I’d put together the data of how their reps were doing, what their pipeline looked like, what their close rates were etc and he had the results of their Insights personality test which showed which sales skills they had a natural ability for and which might be more of a struggle. We would combine the two to sit down with the managers and say, ‘so you see here where it says they might struggle with prospecting skills, well the data about pipeline growth says that’s true.’ We use the combined data to reveal the deficiencies and highlight coachable items. That was really successful.

Putting the individual results together with CRM data gave the sales managers extremely actionable points per individual with metrics on how to measure the success against that.

Read our interview with Marissa.

Justin Kersey - sales enablement vs sales operations

Justin Kersey, VP of Sales, Merrill Corporation

We blur the lines a little bit with sales enablement, but we definitely have defined sales enablement people. And for us that’s all about how we upskill our current sales organisation, how we onboard new sellers to teach them about the business, about our product, about our client buyer personas, and then teaching them about the tools that they’re going to be exposed to in the sales process. On the other side of that is sales ops, which is more around the analytics. 

Read our interview with Justin.

Anthony Conrad, Director of Sales Operations, Tapclicks

I have a desk right across from my Director of Sales Enablement, and we tag-team and lean on each other a lot. We have two very different styles. But we both understand that there are certain ways to combine operations, systems and technology with that human element as well. I say to my reps, “If you received this call, if you received this email, what would you do?” And if they tell me they wouldn’t reply, or they wouldn’t like it, then I ask them why they’re sending it. I tell them to put themselves in the prospect’s shoes. Understand who this person is. Use the technology that we have put into place. But be able to hack the system and take the untraditional route. One really good colleague of mine – a field rep for many years – still to this day writes hand-written thank you notes. And it is just mind-blowing how effective that human touch is. And that is really where I see operations and enablement really balancing together – figuring out that sweet spot of how they can work together as one cohesive unit.

Read our interview with Anthony.

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